Time for some new reading material.
November 4, 2011 9:05 PM   Subscribe

Hit me with some great, freely-available, science fiction short stories.

I love science fiction shorts. My dad always had a few old Nebula and Hugo collections kicking around the house and I went through them over and over again. I'm looking to pick up some more and I figure there have got to be quite a few available here and there across the internet. Help me find some of the very best!

Here are the requirements:
1) Must be a short story. If it takes more than an hour to read it, it's probably too long.

2) Must be science fiction. Feel free to take as broad a definition of this as you like.

3) Must be available, on the web, for free. HTML, PDF, TXT, doesn't matter. I need to be able to just browse over to it and start reading.

4) Must be a specific story. I'm not looking for collections, magazines, anthologies, or writing groups. Just links to single stories that I can go ahead and start reading.

5) Must come highly recommended by you. I'm looking for stuff that you personally have read and loved, stuff that's really, really good. If you want to tell me why you think it's good so much the better, but honestly you look like a reliable, discerning sort of person and I'm willing to trust your judgement.
That's it. In the interests of making this question maximally useful to as many people as possible, I won't try to restrict things to only stories I have read myself, or only certain subgenres, or anything like that.

Now go to it! Bring me your choicest bite-sized bits of online SF! Find me something to tickle my brain and entertain me in the boring cracks of my life. All I have to offer in return is undying universal love.
posted by Scientist to Writing & Language (31 answers total) 108 users marked this as a favorite
You probably know it, but hey, it would be shameful not to commemorate it:
The Last Question by Isaac Asimov, 1956
posted by procrastinator at 9:13 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Spar by Kij Johnson. It was also a Metafilter post.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:17 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: "Have read myself" should have read "haven't read myself." Don't worry about whether or not I've read something, even if I have I probably don't have a copy on hand and would be down to re-read. Old Asimov stuff is perfectly kosher!

OK, less threadsitting, more reading.
posted by Scientist at 9:17 PM on November 4, 2011

First one that comes to mind for me is maybe more horror than SF, but A Colder War by (Metafilter's Own, I think) Charles Stross is outstanding.
posted by Janta at 9:18 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula Le Guin

When It Changed by Joanna Russ

The Screwfly Solution by Racoona Sheldon (who was also James Tiptree Jr. and Alice Sheldon.)

Elan Vital by K. Tempest Bradford
posted by Jeanne at 9:21 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Everything Ted Chiang has written. Here's one: http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/under.htm
posted by purenitrous at 9:21 PM on November 4, 2011

I recently read 6 of the "best of 2010" anthologies and noted which among those collected/mentioned that I liked were available online: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:24 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Check these guys out.
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 9:31 PM on November 4, 2011

Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream".
posted by EmGeeJay at 9:32 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Things
posted by Artw at 9:34 PM on November 4, 2011

The Machine Stops written in 1909 by E.M. Forster. It's been my favorite for a very long time.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:44 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd also like to second Ted Chiang - I discovered him through metafilter. I particularly liked:

Understand (linked above too)
Story of Your Life, which felt a lot like something Jorge Luis Borges would have written if he had been a scientist instead of a librarian
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 9:53 PM on November 4, 2011

Little Lost Robot - Paul McAuley.
posted by Artw at 10:09 PM on November 4, 2011

"The Island" by Peter Watts. (winner of the Hugo award for best novelette)

"Singleton" by Greg Egan.

"The Seasons of the Ansarac" by Ursula Le Guin.

"Valuable Humans In Transit" by Sam Hughes. (If you're in the mood for something longer, his "Fine Structure" series begins as a sequence of semi-independent short stories that eventually connect up with each other.)
posted by teraflop at 11:03 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Island by Peter Watts
Start The Clock by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Cucumber Gravy by Susan Palwick
Linkworlds by Will McIntosh
The Little Goddess by Ian McDonald.
It Takes Two by Nicola Griffith (pdf)
Second Person, Present Tense by Daryl Gregory
Exhalation by Ted Chiang
Seven Sexy Cowboy Robots by Sandra McDonald
The Empress Of Mars by Kage Baker

Thank you for asking this question. In the process of putting together this list, I discovered that my favorite authors have a lot of stories online that I haven't read yet, so I have a lot of new reading material to enjoy.
posted by creepygirl at 11:06 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

This AskMe + Instapaper = JOY

Also, not quite science fiction, but kind of, and it's seriously awesome:

The Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:21 PM on November 4, 2011

This is going to sound like an anthology answer, but hear me out! As others have said, Ted Chiang is staggeringly good -- every one of his longer stories is mindblowing and even his shorter work is intriguing.

As evidence, I submit this post I did on him last year rounding up all his stories that are available online. Nothing too fancy, just a list of links to the text and/or MP3 versions, with short descriptions of each and a few interview pieces at the end.

Nearly a year on, that post is still the most popular post on the entire site. His writing is just that amazing.

(The "Tower of Babylon" link is now broken, btw, but should point here.)
posted by Rhaomi at 11:47 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

All You Zombies, by Robert Heinlein, one of the greatest time-travel stories ever written.
posted by Gorgik at 6:04 AM on November 5, 2011

Seconding "The Machine Stops" (so relevant today, because the Internet is The Machine) as well as another old classic, The Waveries by Frederic Brown.
posted by Rash at 6:46 AM on November 5, 2011

Here is a whole lot of Richard Kadrey short stories. I like his work a lot.
posted by bibliogrrl at 11:04 AM on November 5, 2011

All Summer in a Day, by Ray Bradbury
posted by ainsley at 12:02 PM on November 5, 2011

Anything from Stanislav Lem the Cyberiad is a collection of short stories, that can be strung together. You can read some of them on the website.
posted by FatRabbit at 1:01 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

for example, How The World Was Saved
posted by FatRabbit at 1:06 PM on November 5, 2011

Response by poster: It seems pointless to try and pick best answers from so many wonderful responses, but suffice it to say I have instapapered the hell out of this entire thread and I'm already thoroughly enjoying your recommendations . A resounding success! Thank you all, and don't feel shy about adding more if there's more to be added!
posted by Scientist at 4:38 PM on November 5, 2011

Beyond lies the Wub
posted by wittgenstein at 7:23 AM on November 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Riddle of the Universe and its Solution by Christopher Cherniak is a creepy computational mystery. Unfortunately I couldn't find it in a better format.
posted by Anything at 2:32 AM on November 7, 2011

All the stories in this collection by John Kessel are good, but I'll pick It's All True as a standout.

Although it has some dead links, the Free SF List is a good jumping off point. Also the Strange Horizons archive page.
posted by mumblingmynah at 12:04 PM on November 7, 2011

Machine of Death
posted by Monochrome at 10:37 PM on November 15, 2011

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